The Mendoza thermal baths are probably the best pools we have been to so far. While not as natural (They are pools not springs) they definitely have a charm and and sense of fun about them. The access point is a cute town reminisce of a smaller San Pedro De Atacama with plenty of restaurants, bars and tourists around. In the springs you have your choice of boiling hot or freezing cold. There is an unusually powerful water fountain down the bottom section of the pools which tends to get in the way of any complete relaxation, but it definitely forces you to find the perfect spot. Meanwhile, up top there are more than enough hassle free hot relaxation points.
From the town and from Mendoza you can organise extra curricular activities like water rafting and rapelling down the side of a bridge.
If you’re cute little town that force you to relax then we recommend staying the night. But last bus back to Mendoza is at 7 and since the pools close at 6 (locker rooms at 6:30) this gives you more than enough time to browse some shops and have an after bath cerveza.
Mendoza is truly one of our favourite places in Argentina. Not only is it incredibly cheap (Despite everything we had been told) with hostels from $5 Aud but it also has a vibrant colourful and friendly feel to it. Of course the wineries that surround the city have something to do it with its charm and also make it a great pace to try the Malbec that it is famous for, but there is plenty to do outside of getting to the bottom of your wine glass, or during ;).
The giant parque offers great picnic, strolling or bike riding conditions with the options of taking the challenge to find your way to the top of the Cerro de La Gloria lookout point. Challenging mainly just when it comes to finding the entry point.
The many restaurants, cafes and bars around the city make for great meal after great meal and give you the chance to try Argentinas famous barbecues (Parrilas) and of course steak.
Our first day in Mendoza we spent biking around the vineyards and what a beautiful day we had!
Instead of going with a tour we decided to do it on our own (we defiantly recommend this!). We caught a local bus from the city centre and after about an hour we got of in Maipu. The bus drops you right outside a bike rental place where you (surprise surprise) rent your bikes for the day. You also get a map with prices and recommendations.
We started with the 3 vineyards furthest away, Tempus Alba being the first one. Here we had a beautiful lunch, the steak is a must and we had our first tasting. We then moved on to the smaller vineyard of the 3 (I can’t remember the name) and had..you guessed it, wine! We then had a snack break at Mevi vineyard with cheese & salami platters. The tasters at the vineyards are more like wine glasses. So after 3 of them we were all pretty light headed, which made biking a bit more difficult.
We biked towards our last stop, Domiciano vineyard. This is the more expensive one but its totally worth it. The wine here is amazing. The Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon is a must try.
You will need about 4-5 hours if you want to fit in a lunch and about 4 vineyards. The more time you have the better. The vineyards close at 5 pm and between 5-6 the bike rental place has happy hour. They serve free wine thats pretty terrible but hey, its free!
We shared a bottle of wine on the bus on the way home (and missed our stop) which helped us keep going until about 1 am.
When its time to leave its time to leave. Say goodbye and head to the bus station to take the border crossing over to Mendoza. Its best to book tickets online as there are a bunch of different bus terminals around Santiago. Prices might be cheaper at the stations. But $50 Aud for a premium seat and border crossing is pretty good. We rode with Andesmar but any bus going over the border should do the trick just fine.
Driving in the night has benefits, you get to sleep. But you also get woken up 4 hours in to go through through border control, which is perfectly safe and organised, takes about an hour, just not enjoyable at 2 in the morning. If you do a day bus you can avoid the annoyance but have to ride a bus in the day. Which we personally think is always worse. However the views are amazing, if you love taking it all in as you drive through a country then the day bus is for you.
Make sure you don’t lose your entry receipt or you’ll have to pay a leaving fee. And if you’re Australian, catching a bus in and out of Chile will allow you to avoid the $150 Chilean Australian reciprocity fee.
Because no one likes photos of a bus, below is a few random ones!
Just about smack bang in the center of Chile you’ll find its capital Santiago. A popular starting point for a lot of travellers so expect positive atmospheres and a lot of drinking. Be warned that the center location leaves you with the difficult choice of heading South or North. Most people we have met can’t do both, but with one unnaturally long highway it is possible.
We stayed in Bellavista which is the cool street art covered bar and club district of Santiago. Prepare to eat, a lot. Chile is famous for its food and Santiago has the best of it all. Churrasco, completo, pino empanadas, the very weird but surprisngly nice dessert of ‘mote con huasilla’ and all the regular dishesabout everywhere. What makes Santiago great is the cleanliness, positive atmosphere, easily navigable subway and most importantly the Chileans who are probably the easiest and friendliest people to meet. Whether you’re a couple of guys in an electronic shop or a boss called Julio, Chileans got it all going on.
Keep in mind that Chile is very expensive. A hostel will set you back about $17 ( we stayed at La Chimba Hostel and it was great!) and a restaurant meal is the same price as Europe and Australia. The cheapest thing around is wine & beer which we still think is great.
I have managed to accidentally deleted all our photos from Santiago. But here is a few shitty ones that was saved.
Places you shouldn’t miss visiting is:
Cerro San Cristobal – A good place for a small hike and stunning views
Cerro Santa Lucia – A pretty place in the centre that is a nice walk with views of the city
Cajón Del Maipo – Beautiful place to go for a full day with amazing hiking, river rafting & hot springs.
Just a few hours from Santiago, Valparaiso offers another taste of great Chilean coastline and a chance to walk through colourful streets littered with cafes and restaurants. We heard that in summer some places in Santiago shut down as everyone relocates to the coast line which is pumping all the way through summer.
Viña Del Mar is the place to go for a good beach, just a short bus ride from Valpo’s main centre, make sure you do it on a sunny day or you might find yourself alone on a clouded beach looking pretty ridiculous. Other than the beach we would recommend sticking to Valpo.
Valparaiso doesn’t have a proper beach itself but just walking around the city will take up lots of your time. I would say 1 or maybe 2 days are enough here depending on what you would like to do.
The best place to stay is conception & make sure you put some money away and treat yourself for a delicious dinner or lunch here!
With blanket white mist and clouds sitting just atop well kept European styled buildings and streets La Serena is a great city to arrive in early morning.
Try not to do it on a Sunday like we did but if you enjoy the peace that comes with walking through empty, safe and pretty streets then you’ll like La Serena. Don’t worry the clouds don’t stick around all day.
From about 10 am onwards you can take your jumpers off and soak in what feels like spring sunshine. If you get a good day with minimal wind go spend a day by the ocean. Having not been near a coast since Cartagena in Colombia breathing in ocean winds and drinking sangria was all we wanted to spend our day doing.
Find a hostel with a rooftop if you feel like taking it easy for an afternoon with cheese, biscuits and wine. We stayed at Cosmo Hostel Elqui which seemed like it was a bit of a party hostel other than us pretty much being the only guests (it Is winter after all) which didn’t stop the party vibe. A bunch of cool staff work here and keep the fun going. Aji Verde Hostel also has a rooftop and cool interior design.
You can do tours to the Elqui valley and have a bunch of fun on a pisco tour or skygaze in the desert. If you have time we recommend a stop in La Serena just to enjoy a day or night hanging out.